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MICHIGAN HISTORICAL COMMISSION 
A State Department of History and Archives 



THOMAS W. PALMER 



By M. AGNES BURTON 



AbVANCE PAGES, PROCEEDINGS OF THE MICH- 
IGAN PIONEER AND HISTORICAL SOCIETY 




LANSING, MICHIGAN 

WYNKOOP HALLENBECK CRAWFORD CO., STATE PRINTERS 

1914 



MICHIGAN HISTORICAL COMMISSION 
A Statu Department of History and Archives 



THOMAS W. PALMER 



By M. AGNES BURTON 



ADVANCE PAGES, PROCEEDINGS OF THE MICH- 
IGAN PIONEER AND HISTORICAL SOCIETY 



/S/WVv 




LANSING, MICHIGAN 
WVNKOOP HALLENBECK CK.WVKORD CO.. STATE PRINTERS 

1911 



T 2LVB°\ 



Gift 
Carnegie Institution 
•f Washington 



THOMAS W. PALMER 



BY M. AGNES BURTON 



Thomas Witherell Palmer, or as he was more 
familiarly known, "Tom Palmer," the only son of 
Thomas Palmer and Mary A. Witherell, was born in 
Detroit, Michigan, January 25, 1830, in a brick 
building on the southeast corner of Jefferson avenue 
and Griswold street. His ancestors, both paternal 
and maternal, were among the first New Englanders 
to seek a home in the west. 

Thomas Palmer, the father of Thomas W. Palmer, 
was born at Ashford, Conn., February 4, 1789. When 
eighteen years of age, in company with an older 
brother, Friend, he became an "itinerant merchant, a 
common vocation in New England at that time. 
They set out with a stock of general merchandise and 
a span of horses, traveling through Western Canada 
until they reached Maiden. Here they established 
themselves and carried on a successful business until 
the War of 1812, when they were made prisoners. 
After being held five weeks and being unwilling to 
take the oath of allegiance to Great Britain, they 
were transported over the river to Monguagon. They 
proceeded to Detroit and were very soon again made 
prisoners. This time they were released on parole and 

Read by Mr. C. M. Burton at the Midwinter Meeting, Port Huron. February 5) 
1914. 



4 THOMAS \Y. PALMER 

returned to Connecticut. Again they set out with 
merchandise and making their headquarters at Can- 
andaigua, New York, Thomas departed for Canada 
and Detroit, arriving at the latter place on June 16. 
1815. 

From this date Thomas Palmer made Detroit his 
permanent residence and became the western repre- 
sentative of the firm F. and T. Palmer. In 1820 he 
built the brick building on the southeast corner of 
Jefferson avenue and Griswold street, with a store on 
the first floor and his home above. The firm flour- 
ished until 1824 when the partnership was dissolved 
and from that time on Thomas was interested in var- 
ious projects of importance. 

In 1823 he contracted in conjunction with David C. 
McKinstry and DeGarmo Jones to build the court 
house for the City of Detroit. This building was 
to be completed December 1, 1824 and in payment for 
the work the contractors received lands in the Ten 
Thousand Acre Tract and one hundred forty-four 
city lots. The larger share of this property subse- 
quently came into the possession of the Palmer family 
through purchase. He had a share in one of the wharfs 
on the river; took contracts for grading and hauling; 
owned valuable lands in St. Clair county, where he 
laid out the village of Palmer (later called St. Clair) 
and operated a saw mill thereon; had a lumber yard 
at the foot of Bates street, Detroit; owned interests 
in several of the steamboats on the river at various 
times, and in 1845 speculated in Lake Superior mining 



THOMAS W. PALMER. 5 

lands. He was intimately connected with the build- 
ing of the First Baptist Church, contributing money 
and lumber for its construction and was a stockholder 
in the Association for Promoting Female Education 
in Detroit. In 1819 he was one of the trustees of the 
town and he served as alderman at large several times. 
He was a jolly, kind-hearted man, weighing about 250 
pounds and was the butt of many a good-natured joke. 
In later years he was in partnership with his son, 
Thomas W. Palmer. He died August 3, 1868 after 
several years of painful illness. 

Mary Amy Witherell, the mother of Thomas W. 
Palmer, was the third daughter of Judge James Withe- 
rell and Amy Hawkins, and was born in Fair Haven, 
Vermont, October 4, 1795. Her father had, in 1809, 
been appointed one of the judges of the Supreme court 
of the Territory of Michigan. Mrs. Witherell and her 
children joined him in 1810, but the hostilities of the 
savages and lack of comforts induced her to take her 
children and return to Vermont for a visit in 1811. 

At Hull's surrender, Judge Witherell, his oldest son, 
James C. C, and a son-in-law, Joseph Watson, were 
taken prisoners and sent to Kingston, Canada. They 
were soon paroled and joined their families in Ver- 
mont. After the war Judge Witherell returned to 
Detroit where he continued in office for twenty years, 
when he became Secretary of the Territory. He died 
January 9, 1838. 

Judge Witherell's daughter, Mary Amy, married 
Thomas Palmer August 20, 1821. They traveled east 
on their wedding trip and returning on the Walk-in- 



6 THOMAS W. PALMER. 

the-Water were wrecked near Buffalo, November 6, 
1821. 

Thomas James Palmer, who in 1850 changed his 
name to Thomas Witherell Palmer, was the third of 
the four children of Thomas Palmer and Mary Amy 
Witherell Palmer, who grew to maturity. His oldest 
sister, Mary Amy, named from her mother, was born 
in Detroit, in 1826 and died November 29, 1854. On 
June 22, 1848, she married Henry M. Roby, of the 
firm of Hunt and Roby, who was a loved and life long 
friend of Thomas W.'s and whose daughter Mary Roby 
Hamilton was to have been heiress to the Palmer 
wealth and estates, had not death cut short her career in 
April 1890. His second sister Julia, married on 
November 2. 1853, Henry W. Hubbard, who died in 
New York, April 28, 1871. Later, Mrs. Hubbard 
married Hugh Moffat, January 27, 1879. She died 
November 20, 1880. Sara, the youngest sister, died 
unmarried November 22, 1859. 

When Thomas W. was three months old, the house 
in which he was born burned to the ground. His 
family sought a temporary residence in a building 
near by but soon removed to a house on Woodward 
avenue. This was a "rough cast house" nearly 
opposite Cliff's tavern where John R. street joins 
Woodward avenue. It was two and a half stories 
high, quite commodious and had a garden extending 
up to the Grand Circus Park. The Palmers remained 
here until some time in 1834 when they removed to 
their comfortable residence just completed on the 
corner of Fort and Shelby streets. Here they lived 



THOMAS W. PALMER. / 

nearly seventeen years and in 1851 moved to a hand- 
some new home on Jefferson avenue. 

Tom's first school days were spent in Detroit where 
his good-nature and mischievousness quickly attracted 
many friends. One of his early teachers was Ebenezer 
Hurd Rogers, named after Ebenezer Hurd, an uncle 
of Tom's— the husband of his Aunt Betsy Witherell. 
In November 1842, when he was twelve years old he 
was sent to an excellent private school for boys and 
girls, conducted by the Rev. O. C. Thompson in the 
village of Palmer (St. Clair). Here he soon showed a 
precociousness which placed him far in advance of 
many of the older children. 

Under Mr. Thompson, he prepared for the Uni- 
versity of Michigan, studying Latin, Greek, Algebra 
and the ordinary English branches. His essays written 
during the three years at the Academy show unusual 
originality of style and composition. Here he made 
many new friends, among them being David Jerome, 
who later defeated him in the nomination for governor 
of Michigan. 

Mr. Palmer used to tell amusing stories of Ins school 
days at Palmer. Once when Mr. Thompson wanted 
to have an exhibition of the work done in his school 
he called upon Tom to write a Latin salutatory. He 
says, "I didn't know what a salutatory was, but I 
looked it up in the dictionary and found that it was a 
'welcome.' I didn't know any more about a Latin 
salutatory than a broncho, but I knew that few of 
those to be in attendance were any wiser, witli the ex- 
ception of Mr. Thompson, so I took down my Latin 



8 THOMAS W. PALMER. 

dictionary and produced a salutatory which if it had 
been read in the days of Augustus, would have been the 
hit of the year and would have convulsed four or 
five Colosseums with laughter. But it went off in 
good style, sounded very learned; everybody was 
satisfied and Mr. Thompson gratified." 

Another amusing incident of his boyhood, one which 
shows an early budding of his business instinct, is told 
in connection with the excitement aroused over the 
Polk-Clay election. Tom's father was an ardent Clay 
man. Tom Sheldon, one of his playmates, was the 
son of a staunch Polk man. The boys bet a shilling 
on the election, but as the day approached Tom 
Palmer began to hedge, and having no shilling to pay 
his debt he bet with Jim Simpson against Clay. After 
election Sheldon came to collect his debt and Tom 
referred him to Jim who when he learned of the game, 
vowed he would never pay Sheldon. For years it was 
a standing joke between Sheldon who annually dunned 
Palmer and Palmer who annually refused to pay his 
election bet. 

Tom's schooldays at Palmer soon passed and in the 
fall of 1845 he was admitted into the State University 
at Ann Arbor. Here he continued his former studies, 
always keeping in sight his early ambition to study 
law and by that means to enter the field of politics. 
He was very popular with his professors and the Ann 
Arbor people with whom he became acquainted and 
with his college chums. In 1847 he joined the Chi Psi 
fraternity. 

Owing to ill health from which he had suffered all 



THOMAS \Y. PALMER. \) 

through his college course and to continual trouble 
with his eyes, he was forced to give up his studying 
early in 1848 and for a time to abandon his desire to 
become a lawyer. He returned to Detroit and soon 
with five of his college chums decided to travel, paying 
his way by Daguerrean art. He also made arrange- 
ments to consult an eye specialist while in New York. 

On October 24, 1848, David James, Cleveland 
Whiting, Stephen Tillotson, James Witherell, George 
Kellogg and Tom Palmer boarded the "Potomac" 
bound for Brazil by way of Cadiz. Tillotson furnished 
most of the capital and the boys went in debt for the 
balance. Palmer's letter to his mother just before 
sailing was full of enthusiasm at the prospect of the 
trip and hope that his eyes would recover in the long 
rest so that he could study law upon his return. 

The voyage across the ocean was rough and tedious 
and on December 1, 1848, six weary boys set their 
feet upon terra firma for the first time in thirty-four 
days. They landed at Cadiz on a bright warm day, 
and in after years Palmer often described the joy they 
felt upon that December day in 1848. After a three 
weeks walking tour in Spain and Christmas at Cadiz, 
they set sail December 30, for Rio Janeiro, which 
Palmer described as the "dirtiest place on earth." 

He then returned to New Orleans, landing there 
May 1, 1849. His independent spirit prompted him 
to stop there long enough to work off his debt, but 
his longing for home and the knowledge that he would 
be promptly invited to return, that his debts would be 
paid and a parental blessing bestowed as soon as his 



10 THOMAS W. PALMER 

family knew of his return to his home country, made 
him weaken. He wrote home with the expected result 
and reached Detroit early in the summer. 

The condition of his eyes still prevented close ap- 
plication or reading, and he again abandoned his desire 
to study law. In May 1850, he set out on board the 
steamer "Michigan," and landing at Green Bay, 
Wisconsin, very soon established himself with Whitney 
and Company, forwarding and commission merchants. 
During his connection with this company he was 
stationed at Kaukalin, Green Bay and Appleton. 
Here he saw plenty of opportunities to "turn a penny" 
and did not fail to take advantage of them. Here he 
also had his first political experience. In the fall of 
1850, he was elected, without seeking the honor, dele- 
gate to the Whig County convention to be held Octo- 
ber 22. He was chosen secretary of the convention 
and after transcribing the proceedings of the meeting, 
was appointed delegate to the Senatorial Convention 
to be held at Manitouwoc. That honor he declined, 
because he could not conscientiously neglect his busi- 
ness. Here he celebrated his 21st birthday January 
25, 1851, and on that occasion wrote a letter home to 
his brother-in-law Henry Roby, asking for advice as to 
his future career. This letter reveals a wisdom that is 
surprising in a young man of that age. It shows him 
still clinging to his early ambition to study law as a 
means to an end, but as being rather inclined to build 
a career upon a mercantile basis and to study law as 
a side issue. 

Immediately following this letter he set himself up 



THOMAS W. PALMER 11 

as a merchant, stocking himself with general goods 
and speculating in flour and grains. He succeeded 
very well, but was burned out January 19, 1852, and 
was able to recover but a small part of the damage 
covered by insurance. He made a plucky attempt to 
start again, but in the effort to recover his insurance he 
saw a better opening, which resulted in his establishing 
himself in partnership with his father in the insurance 
business in Detroit. 

In Detroit, in 1853-4, they had an office under the 
Farmer's and Mechanic's Bank, and their business 
card read, "Insurance, Land and Tax Agency, Thomas 
Palmer and Son." They were agents for the Monarch 
Fire and Life Assurance Company, Irving Fire In- 
surance Company and Mohawk Valley Fire Insurance 
Company. They also agreed to attend to the purchase 
and conveyancing of farms and wild land and city 
property and the payment of taxes, in Michigan, Wis- 
consin and Illinois. They investigated titles and pur- 
chased patent titles to bounty lands in Illinois. Mr. 
Palmer immediately took his old place in the society 
of the city and was called by the young men of his 
acquaintance "quite a blood." 

In July 1855, his first effort in a literary line was 
printed in the Detroit Tribune under the signature 
"Jose." On October 16, 1855, he married Lizzie Pitts 
Merrill, daughter of Charles Merrill, a wealthy lumber 
man who owned and operated large pine interests in 
Michigan and ran a large mill at East Saginaw. He 
continued in business with his father until 1860 when 
he became bookkeeper for the firm of Charles Merrill 



12 THOMAS W. PALMER 

and Company. In 1863 he went into partnership 
with Mr. Merrill and remained with the firm until 
Mr. Merrill's death in 1872, after which he took into 
the company as partner, J. A. Whittier of Saginaw. 
Under the name of C. Merrill and Company, they 
managed the business for over thirty years, selling out 
only in 1903. 

In the summer of 1856 Palmer made several stump 
speeches for Fremont and Dayton, and in August 
while visiting in Portland, Maine, made an address be- 
fore a republican meeting, upon which the papers com- 
mented favorably. In 1860 he came near being nomi- 
nated alderman of the first ward, but lost to N. P. 
Jacobs. 

In 1864, owing to Mrs. Palmer's ill health, they 
took up their residence on the corner of Woodward 
avenue and Farnsworth street, which at that time 
was looked upon as a suburban home. Here his 
attention was divided between his business and the 
management of a miniature farm. Upon the death of 
his father in 1868, he assumed the care and responsi- 
bility of all of his mother's estate — the lands on 
Jefferson avenue and a farm out Woodward avenue 
where the present "Palmer Park" is located. On 
December 28, 1872 Mr. Merrill died, leaving his 
daughter and Mr. Palmer his heirs. 

The year 1873 was the real beginning of Palmer's 
political career, which extended over less than twenty 
years. That year he was elected one of the estimators 
at large on the first Board of Estimates of the City. 
The most important question which came before them 



THOMAS W. PALMER 13 

was the buying of a city park. In 1876 Mr. Palmer 
was a candidate for member of Congress for the First 
District, but was beaten by Henry M. Duffield. In 
1878 he declined to run again, but upon the earnest 
solicitation of his friends he accepted the nomination 
for state senator, tendered him by acclamation, and 
won the election. 

While in the state senate he introduced a bill to es- 
tablish an institution for delinquent girls, which was 
passed. He presented a petition of many citizens of 
Detroit for the passage of a law enabling the city to 
issue bonds to the sum of $700,000 for the purchase of 
Belle Isle for a city park and to build a bridge over the 
American channel of the Detroit River. This bill was 
acted upon and May 27, 1879, the legislature author- 
ized the city, with the consent of the estimators, to 
issue bonds and purchase the island. On September 
25 of that year the purchase was consummated. Mr. 
Palmer's interest in the improvements of his city is 
seen in his support of a petition of Detroit citizens for 
a boulevard around the city, which resulted in a pro- 
vision of the legislature May 21, 1879, for a Board of 
Boulevard Commissioners. A petition signed by wo- 
men and men of Detroit for an amendment to the State 
Constitution to the end that women might vote for the 
election of school officers was presented by Thomas 
W. Palmer. He was also interested in petitions for 
prohibition, and during this short period of two years 
he became the champion of several causes which he 
continued to support throughout the rest of his life. 
In 1879 he was chairman of the republican com- 



14 THOMAS W. PALMER 

mittee, and made several campaign speeches. He 
ran for nomination for governor of the state, but was 
defeated by his old school friend of St. Clair Academy, 
David Jerome. This defeat was thought to have been 
a great disappointment to Mr. Palmer, but his speech 
when Jerome was nominated showed that he was a 
good loser and generous even in defeat. 

"One by one the martyrs pass before you, but we 
come not as martyrs, but as apostles of the great Re- 
publican party. It was said that when the French 
army was retreating from Moscow in the march, while 
the soldiers exhausted by hunger, frozen by the cold, 
were dropping by the wayside, they would rise as 
Napoleon passed by and cry out 'Long live the Em- 
peror' then fall back in the snow as their winding 
sheets. What was it the French soldier cheered as 
Napoleon passed by? Was it the man who crossed 
the bridge at Lodi? * * * * They cheered because 
they saw in that cocked hat and gray surtout, visions 
of the vine-covered cottage on the banks of the Seine 
or the Loire, the gray-haired father, the yearning eyes 
of the mother, the little brothers and sisters and all 
the delights of home. 

"So do we, who have been frozen out today by the 
votes of your delegates rise up and cry out as the great 
Republican party passes by 'Long live the Republican 
Party.' * * * * 

"Thanking you gentlemen of the convention and 
particularly my friends within your ranks who have 
been so generous in their support of me, I congratulate 
you upon the result you have achieved. In nomi- 



THOMAS W. PALMER 15 

nating Mr. Jerome you have done the very best you 
could under the circumstances, possibly with one ex- 
ception. I predict an overwhelming majority for our 
candidate in November." 

On Decoration day, 1879, he made an eloquent ad- 
dress on the Campus Martius near the Soldiers' Monu- 
ment. This was only the beginning of many eloquent 
addresses by Michigan's most popular orator. 

In 1882 his name began to appear for United States 
Senator to succeed Ferry, but not until he saw that 
Ferry was losing did he allow his name to be used. 
He won the election and took his seat as Senator 
December 3, 1883. While in the Senate he made one 
of the first speeches ever made in that body in favor 
of woman suffrage. He strongly favored government 
regulation of railroads, and originated the phrase 
''Equal rights to all, special privileges to none." He 
was one of the few who dared to take a stand against 
trusts, and in his speeches he sounded warnings 
against the dangers of permitting big corporations to 
gain so much power. He introduced a bill in favor of 
regulations to restrict immigration and prepared an 
exhaustive and comprehensive report for its support. 
He was chairman of the committee on agriculture, had 
charge of a bill creating the department of agriculture, 
and had much to do with its passage. As a presiding 
officer he had an enviable reputation for dignity and 
neatness of dispatch. 

He was a gifted orator and a still better debater. 
His address in Washington at the memorial exercises 
for Gen. John A. Logan is generally regarded as his 



16 THOMAS W. PALMER 

most finished oratorical effort. On June 29, 1887, he 
addressed the graduating class in the University of 
Michigan, and because of his attitude toward the 
liquor question he was severely criticised by papers 
when his name was again mentioned for political office 
in 1888. His words, "It is better that the strong should 
want alcohol than that the weak should be overcome by 
it" were quoted and commented upon, but Mr. Palmer 
put a quietus on the criticisms by announcing that he 
was not a candidate for second term. At this time 
there was a rumor that he was to be made Secretary 
of Agriculture in Harrison's Cabinet, but in spite of 
Palmer's enthusiasm over agriculture and his work in 
establishing that department, he did not receive the 
portfolio. 

In 1889, unsolicited, Harrison offered Palmer the 
Embassy to Spain. A grand farewell dinner was given 
in his honor and he sailed in April, accompanied by his 
wife, his niece and heir, Mary Roby Hamilton, her 
husband Capt. Hamilton, U. S. A., Mr. William 
Livingstone, Jr., and General Friend Palmer, his 
cousin. 

Even while in Spain he was not allowed to rest. His 
friends were ever urging him to run for governor, and it 
is very probable that it was his intention to again enter 
the gubernatorial arena when he cut short his stay in 
Spain, departing in the early Spring of 1890. On the 
way to America he received news that his niece Mary 
Roby Hamilton had died. This, together with the 
death of his brother-in-law Henry M. Roby before his 



THOMAS W. P A L M E R 1 7 

arrival in the city, so deeply affected Palmer that he 
emphatically declined to consider the possibility of be- 
coming a candidate for Governor of Michigan. 

In June 1890 Harrison appointed Palmer one of the 
Commissioners for the World's Fair to be held at 
Chicago in 1893 and the board elected him President. 
The excellent results of his work in this connection 
speak volumes for his wonderful executive ability and 
his tact in handling people. This ended Palmer's 
political career, although there were frequent attempts 
to draw him again into the whirl, in 1895 and 1899. 

After the Fair he suffered from a nervous collapse 
which necessitated a long rest. This was spent with 
Mrs. Palmer on Long Island Sound where they later 
built a beautiful home known as Larchmont Manor. 
In the fall of 1895 their Woodward avenue residence 
was destroyed by fire. Fortunately many of the 
valuable pictures, rugs and curios had been moved to 
Larchmont and were preserved. In 1897 the Senator 
built a handsome brick residence on the Log Cabin 
Farm/ where he spent his declining years until his 
death June 1, 1913. There, surrounded by his books, 
he welcomed his friends, annually entertained the 
"Old Boy's Club," and celebrated several of his birth- 
days. He read, wrote, learned to ride a bicycle and 
indulged in his favorite hobby of farming and breeding 
fancy stock. 

As no child had ever entered the Palmer home, the 
Senator lavished his affection upon an adopted daugh- 
ter, Grace Palmer Rice and a Spanish boy, Harold 
Palmer, to whom Mr. and Mrs. Palmer had become 



18 THOMAS W. PALMER 

deeply attached during his official life to Spain, and 
who became his heir. 

His business activities throughout his life, although 
varied, had been almost uniformily successful and he 
had amassed a large fortune before he entered the 
political arena. He always gave freely, both privately 
and publicly; hospitals, charitable institutions, G. A. 
R., Y. M. C. A. and the University of Michigan were 
recipients of his generosity. 

A lover of art, he was one of the founders of the Art 
Museum of Detroit, gave $15,000 to start it and was 
its first President. In 1848 he was one of the original 
members of the " Vingt Club," a society similar to the 
Audubon Society, and in 1877 he was one of the found- 
ers of the Detroit Humane Society. 

During the Civil War he was one of the most en- 
thusiastic promoters of the Michigan Soldiers' Monu- 
ment Association Upon its organization, in July 
1861, he was chosen secretary, and served through 
1885. The site chosen for the monument was in east 
Grand Circus Park, and the cornerstone was laid July 
4, 1867. After much consultation and in accordance 
with the recommendations of Randolph Rogers, the 
artist, it was decided to locate the monument on the 
Campus Martius. The cornerstone was removed and 
on April 9, 1872, the monument was formally dedi- 
cated. 

Mr. Palmer was a member of many Patriotic So- 
cieties, of several city clubs, the Equal Suffrage Club 
of Michigan and the National American Woman's 
Suffrage Association. He was a member of Zion 



THOMAS W. PALMER 19 

Lodge No. 1 and an honorary member of the Light 
Guards. 

Although a Unitarian and a liberal contributor to all 
its demands, he gave freely to the support of other 
religious institutions. The Mary W. Palmer M. E. 
Memorial Church he erected as a loving tribute to his 
mother, and in his will he left a generous sum toward 
the support of superannuated Methodist Episcopal 
preachers. 

In acknowledgment of several gifts to, and a life- 
long interest in, Albion College, President Dickie 
conferred upon Palmer as a Christmas gift in 1904, 
the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws. 

He was always the first to be called upon if any 
guest of honor was to be entertained. He was a 
popular toast master and chairman, and no committee 
for civic or patriotic entertainment was complete 
without him. He was constantly called to preside at 
some public function and always acquitted himself 
with brilliancy and wit. An amusing story related in 
illustration of his resourcefulness is as follows: In 1887 
upon the occasion of a visit of a number of Mexican 
government officials, Palmer gave an eloquent address 
of welcome in Spanish. After the speech, the Mexicans 
crowded about Palmer, praising his Spanish and the 
warm welcome, and asking a thousand questions, de- 
lighted with the thought that there was at least one 
person who could understand their native tongue. 
After a moment of confused embarrassment. Palmer 
shook himself free of the ardent Mexicans and feigning 
deafness, beat a hastv retreat. 



20 THOMAS W, PALMER 

However he was never so happy as when at his 
Log Cabin farm at the five mile road out Woodward 
avenue farming and playing the role of "mein Host." 
This farm he inherited from his mother, and by ad- 
ditions and improvements he had made of it a beautiful 
spot. Here in 1887, he gratified a whim of Mrs. 
Palmer's to live in a real log cabin. Furnished 
throughout with handsome old mahogany that had 
been in the Palmer, Witherell and Merrill families 
and equipped with every modern appliance, the log 
cabin made a comfortable suburban residence. At 
"Font Hill" as it was first called, later "Log Cabin 
Farm" Mr. and Mrs. Palmer spent much of their time, 
away from the noise and confusion of the city which 
had gradually encroached upon their Woodward avenue 
home. 

In 1895 Mr. Palmer presented the city with one hun- 
dred and forty acres of his beloved farm to be used as a 
pleasure park for the people of the City of Detroit, 
with only one stipulation, that none of the virgin 
forest should be wantonly destroyed. "Log Cabin 
Park," or "Palmer Park" as it is also called, is one of 
the most beautiful parks in the city, second only to 
Belle Isle. It is visited daily by thousands and is a 
beautiful and fitting monument to one of Detroit's 
most loyal and useful citizens. 

A sketch of this great man would not be complete 
without a few words concerning the faithful partner 
of his long and useful life, who is now making her home 
at Larchmont Manor. Mrs. Palmer, Lizzie Pitts 
Merrill, was the daughter of Charles Merrill and 



THOMAS W. PALM E R 21 

Frances Pitts. She was always a frail, delicate 
woman, but so far as her health would permit she took 
a keen and active interest in all of Mr. Palmer's 
affairs. She traveled with him, was with him while 
in Spain and was one of the most charming and popular 
hostesses during Mr. Palmer's Washington career. 

Mrs. Palmer was interested in the Humane Society, 
and on July 15, 1901, gave the city the "Merrill 
Humane Fountain" in memory of her father. She 
also shared in the gift of "Log Cabin Park" and the 
famous Log Cabin. Although wealthy in her own 
right, she was the principal beneficiary and residuary 
legatee in the will of her husband. 

Mr. Palmer's final act of generosity is shown in the 
terms of his will, in which he has provided for a host 
of relatives, apparently remembering everyone in pro- 
portion to their wants, with donations of money or 
provisions for their support by annuities. All of the 
remainder of his estate after these bequests were made, 
he left to his wife. 



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